Woods embraces new swing
Tiger Woods figured he could only deal with one problem at a time. In this case, golf had to wait its turn.
“Let’s just say I’ve been through a lot lately, and I didn’t want to have any more information,” Woods said Wednesday at the BMW Championship. “I was trying to get adjusted to my new life and what that entailed, and it was enough as it was. I didn’t have time to work on my game. I was dealing with a lot of other things.”
In what turned out to be a lost summer in the majors, Woods tried to patch together what he could with his golf swing. His only teacher was a video camera and his memory, and that wasn’t nearly enough to get him through four rounds at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, or the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
The do-it-yourself approach gave way to working with Sean Foley, the Canadian-born swing coach who again was with Woods for an hour during his pro-am at Cog Hill for the BMW Championship.
Foley first took video of Woods a month ago at the PGA Championship. Woods already is seeing results. He opened with a season-best 65 at The Barclays and wound up with a tie for 12th.Player Name: First | Laste Bank Championship, Woods had three rounds in the 60s for the first time this year and tied for 11th.
A top 10 for Woods used to be called a slump. Now it’s progress.
He needed both results just to keep playing in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which have reached the third round and perhaps the most critical. Woods went from 112th to 65th after the first round, and to 51st after the second round.
That at least got him to Cog Hill with the rest of the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Woods is the defending champion and a five-time winner at this public course in the Chicago suburbs, winning last year with a 62-68 weekend to finish eight shots ahead of the field.
“It’s good to be back,” Woods said, pausing to smile before adding, “It’s even better to be in the event.”
He thrives on this kind of course, although he already has shown this year that past performance is meaningless without a swing he can trust and a good putting stroke. A two-time winner at St. Andrews, he tied for 23rd. A seven-time winner at Firestone, he had the worst tournament of his career and finished at 18-over par.
Now that Woods appears to be on an upward trend, this week could be interesting.
“I’m headed in the right direction,” Woods said when asked what a victory would mean at this stage in his season. “It obviously would be a good step in the right direction, but we’ve got four days, and I’ve just got to keep plodding along.”
Matt Kuchar remains atop the FedEx Cup standings with a win and a tie for 11th in the two playoff events. Kuchar also has fond memories and one big victory at Cog Hill, even if he didn’t earn a dime. He won the 1997 U.S. Amateur here.
“The people in the locker room still remember me, still get big smiles on their face,” Kuchar said. “It’s kind of a fun homecoming for me to see those old faces.”
It’s also a homecoming of sorts for Steve Stricker, who grew up a few hours away from Cog Hill. But this is no time to wave to the gallery. Stricker not only is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, he is tied with Kuchar for the lowest adjusted scoring average on the PGA Tour, and the next two weeks could decide the Vardon Trophy.
The top 30 after the BMW Championship advance to the Tour Championship and a shot at the $10 million bonus, which Woods has won twice in two attempts.
His goal is to get to Atlanta. Woods has missed the Tour Championship before, but not because he wasn’t eligible. Even so, his primary goal has never changed. He was asked if he would play differently down the stretch if he were a long shot to win the tournament, when playing safe meant finishing high enough to get to the Tour Championship.
“Win,” Woods said. “Did I answer that too fast?”
Not so fast were answers pertaining to Foley. Woods has been saying that previous swing changes with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney took some 18 months to register. He is pleased with the instant feedback he has received from Foley, although he stopped short of saying he would dive in and revamp his swing.
“I understand what he’s trying to teach, so that’s the biggest thing,” Woods said. “And then when you’re out on the golf course playing, it’s understanding how to fix it. that’s the hardest part.”
So is Foley his coach?
“He’s coaching me,” Woods said with a smile, showing that his two years at Stanford were enough to master semantics.
Someone asked he were paying Foley?
“That’s none of your business,” Woods said.
He smiled at that answer, too, recalling the same words—far more terse— that he used at the U.S. Open when a reporter asked if there had been any resolution to his marriage.
The divorce became official on Aug. 23, and Woods is trying to move on. How quickly he adjusts to his swing could depend whether he gets to play one more tournament before the Ryder Cup.
Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest
Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.
During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.
Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.
Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson
DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.
With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.
But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.
That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.
Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.
There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.
If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.
“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”
While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).
While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.
“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”
But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.
While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”
Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.
But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.
Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.
“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”
An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.
For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.
“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”
5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2
The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:
1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.
2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.
3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.
4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.
5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.
Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. … Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.
Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old
DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.
Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.
Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.
“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”
Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.
“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”